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  MSNBC    MSNBC News Live    News/Business. Live news coverage,  
   breaking news and current news events. New.  

    March 13, 2011
    11:00 - 12:00pm EDT  

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japan's triple tragedy. gruesome discoveries and multiple meltdowns now alarmingly possible. what can japan do to prevent a potential nuclear catastrophe? coming up, the latest on the disaster in japan. plus, new stunning video of the tsunami's sudden fury. good morning, everyone. i'm alex witt. it's just past 11:00 a.m. eastern. 8:00 a.m. out west. we have three major stories developing in japan. up first, sobering words from japan's prime minister. he said earthquake and tsunami disaster is the nation's worst crisis since world war ii. meanwhile, the japanese government is warning that another hydrogen explosion could
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happen at a nuclear power plant reactor. workers now pumping sea water into the reactor to prevent a meltdown. more than 200,000 people have been forced to evacuate a 12 mile radius around the nuclear plants. japan's chief cabinet secretary says nine people have tested positive for high radiation levels on their skin and clothing. let's go live again to our london bureau where nbc is keeping track of all the latest developments. >> good morning, alex. it's a race against time for the authorities who are trying to combat this disaster. another problem. it's a new location where the government is saying that radiation levels are above acceptable levels outside the plant. they've called a state of emergency there, but it is a lower state of emergency. meanwhile, sea water is now being used to clean three nuclear power reactors. japan's toek dmroe yo electric power company is preparing to put water into the number two
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reactor. it's already pouring water into reactors one and three to cool them. they've been desperately trying to keep temperatures down at the nuclear reactor. the cooling function is not working, and there's a concern about overheating, and a new threat of explosion there. it comes after a blast yesterday at unit one where they worked hard to prevent a nuclear meltdown. this shows just how serious the problem really is. 170,000 people -- 200,000 people have been evacuated, and just so you know, japan's nuclear safety agency rates it at a level four on a scale of one to seven. chernobyl was seven, alex. >> i understand you have new numbers to bring to us about the impact of this earthquake and tsunami. what do these numbers show? >> the cost of the disaster is being estimated at between $4 billion and $34 billion. that doesn't include the cost of the affect of the tsunami. those figures are all very fluid as well.
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1,000 dead. some are saying 2,000 at this point. this is the very least because many more are missing. officials come forward with a figure to say this is how many we think have been killed. 100,000 troops for rescue efforts. up until yesterday it was 50,000. now they've doubled this in order to be much more effective. there are also lots of parts, but they are finding very difficult to reach. a million homes without water. 2.5 million homes without electricity. there are many without proper food, electricity, and many people are saying they're just getting tiny rations of rice and noodles and 215,000 survivors are said to be in emergency centers. some say 300,000, alex. s. >> extraordinary figures for ch we thank you. a tense situation in japan as officials believe at least one reactor may be undergoing a partial meltdown. robert alvarez is a senior scholar at the institute for policy studies. robert, welcome back. >> thank you.
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>> i want to begin with this question. if the rods are not cooled and completely melt together, the material burns through into a concrete casement, correct? is that what would happen? shouldn't that contain it? >> well, it's not just burning through. there are other processes that the core will undergo, and one of them is the zurconium reacting with the water and generating hydrogen, and it could then overpressurize and yield explosions and then the other question is whether or not the explosion that's already occurred at one of the reactors might have compromised the concrete donor, the secondary containment. i think it's also important to understand that there's a scientific consensus that there is no safe dose of radiation, so what might be considered acceptable for an adult male worker, for example, could prove
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to be very dangerous for children, infants, and pregnant mothers. >> okay. let's go through what should happen at these plants during a disaster? after a quake the nuclear plants, they shut down automatically, right? then you have back-up diesel generators. that's what pumps the water to cool down the reactors? >> well, the process that occurs is at first control rods are inserted that stop the reaction, but the core, the fuel, has a tremendous amount of radioactivity in it and as the radioactivity decays, it gives off a tremendous amount of heat, so there has to be water circulating through the core to cool it, and normally this would take about two days for the reactors to stabilize. what happened was that the -- the -- they lost off site power. there are back-up diesel generators that were probably
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destroyed or by the tsunami, and they did not have an adequate capability to pump water to remove the decay heat, and once that happens, the reactor starts to heat up and pressurize and eventually the fuel gets exposed above the water levels and when that happens, it gets hotter and hotter and starts to melt and things like hydrogen gas get generated and a sequence of more serious events can then flow from that. >> now, robert, my question here is when you have a devastating earthquake, by the way, this big of an event we're talking about is 40 years old. it's prael regularly happening in this area. shouldn't they have been able to think ahead and realize that back-up generators may fail as they did in this case, that the electrical grid will be knocked out as it was in this case?
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you know, tsunami notwithstanding, it makes you wonder why any nuclear power plant of any sort would be built anywhere near a place of seismic activity. >> well, i must agree with you that this is a big question we neat to start asking ourselves in this country as well. >> okay. very quickly, can you give me a rating here if you will. japan's nuclear safety agency rates this event a four on an international scale of seven. let's note that chernobyl was afforded that seven. three mile island was afforded a five. do you think that's accurate? >> i think that we're approaching six. >> approaching six with this? that's pretty grave cause for concern, wouldn't you say? >> i would think so. i mean, the problem is that the situation has not been stabilized, and so there still
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may be potential catastrophic circumstances that might evolve and that we can't be complacent about it. >> okay. clearly, the situation is far from being resolved. we thank you, though, for weighing in. robert aalvarez, appreciate it. >> thank you. japanese fighter jets are out of commission. the planes were slammed into buildings and covered with mud. 100,000 japanese soldiers, though, have been deployed in the aid effort. desperately needed food is now reaching survivors. u.s. troops are loading rice and bread on to helicopters for airlifts into the disaster zone. meanwhile, search and rescue teams from 45 countries are ready to respond, but officials warn it is a race against time. >> we know there are miraculous survivors many days after an incident like this, but we do know that the longer team goes on, the less likely it is we'll find survivors. >> the international community is springing into action and that includes environmental specialists from the u.n. and nuclear experts from america. south korea, france, and the u.k. are sending equipment and
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manpower. now, in the aftermath of tsunami, if that wasn't bad enough, there was a near constant reminder of the potential threat that the grouped in japan is still shaking. more than 150 aftershocks have rocked that country since friday's massive quake. kenneth is japan business and finance correspondent for the economist, and welcome back, kenneth. we were talking yesterday. how did you figure the last 24 hours? how were the things in terms of shake, ralgs, and roll sf. >> it's not pleasant. we do what we can. we're feeling jitters. i felt one earlier this morning. i haven't felt the others, but, of course, the seismologists who study earthquakes are telling us that there's been about 200 since the first quake. we can't all perceive them, but not all in tokyo. if we do, we think if if it's the big one, and if not, we're okay. we have been told there's a 70% chance of a quake of a magnitude of 7 or higher.
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in fact, that's putting everyone a little on edge that -- that we're far from over yet. >> yeah. you can about imagine. talk to me about riding out that quake when it was an 8.9. what was that like? just the fact that the building is shake being isn't cause for alarm because we get that about twice a month. the fact that it didn't stop, and in fact, it got increasingly violent then people got really scared. it was very -- everyone was very quiet. as soon as it subsided again, everyone looked around and realized it started up again. it was walloping us. you wouldn't be able to stand because the whole building is moving and the floor is shuddering. you realize that things are falling. the chandeliers are swaying dramatically. the next pause, people dash for the door. they pack up their things and
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go. that doesn't always help you because you first realize that the rules that you are supposed to do don't work. the fist is going to the table. what if the whole building collapses? go outside. things are falling down from other buildings. i saw one building shaking in front manufacture that he brought me back into the original building. that was an -- all of that is happening really in the first ten seconds, and you are thinking very strategically and almost animalistically about what to do because it's about preservation. >> survival. i have to tell you as a veteran of a number of quakes -- i have grown up in southern california -- they always seem interminable. it went on for some three minutes, the shaking and that just until things -- until you got that sense of tarafirma. that seems like an extraordinarily long time. >> that was just the first wave. there were other waves, and so i eventually found my way to a
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park where i knew about that i would get to that if i looked around there were low buildings, but if any of the buildings collapsed, i figured i was probably going to be fine. there were no trees to fall on top of me, unless there was really swung into me. then when there was the next one of the aftershocks, maybe a couple hundred other people, we automatically crouched. it was an animalistic -- >> you are outside in that park crouching? >> what happened was the entire earth just sort of felt like a wave or like walking on a trampoline. it was no longer solid. that human feeling of first always understanding the earth as stability and solid and it not being soltd anymore and it being something that was -- that had given way, you really felt like you didn't have any -- there was no place to hide. that you were -- it was not about you taking responsibility for yourself. that you were in someone else's hands. >> it is an extraordinary thing. again, having to speak from experience here, although
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nothing along the magnitude of what you have experienced. when the ground starts shaking and your entire world -- it's just not firm. firmly planted. you're not firmly rooted. it is a frightening thing. kenneth, we're so glad you're fine, and thank you for being so very articulate in describing your experience. appreciate it. >> yeah. well, glad i could be with you. in our continuing coverage of the disaster in japan we'll speak to someone who lives near that troubled nuclear power plant. and in other news this morning. an unforgetably gruesome bus accident on a new york highway becomes a criminal investigation. and it may be moving day for hundreds of new jersey residents as a river rises. you're watching msnbc sunday.
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this is pretty remarkable. you're going to look at these stunning images from japan.
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the image taken in april. that was then. this is now. the photo taken yesterday. all those green areas you saw, they've been replaced with just complete nothingness. mass areas of houses. now just pockets of standing water. the neighborhood has been wiped away. literally by that devastating tsunami. by the way, the satellite images you're looking at came from goi, and they were posted by the "new york times", but they sure make you pause and think about what was happening before and where they are standing now. for more i'm joined by john rundel, geology professor at the university of california at davis. john, with a welcome back. i want to run some of this new amateur video we've gotten into msnbc sunday. it just happened this morning. it the tsunami crashing ashore. it is a shocking thing to see. i know it has left you both
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riveted and amauzed at what you see because you have never seen anything like this, have you? >> no. you have to be speechless about this. this is just incredible. i want to add one thing to your -- something your previous guest said, which is that, you know, whenever you have a magnitude, let's say, 7 earthquake, you expect one magnitude 6 aftershock and 5 magnitude 5. in this case with a magnitude nine earthquake, can you do the math. we're going to expect rule of thumb a magnitude 8 after shock and ten magnitude 7 aftershocks. >> what kind of problems, john? i'm looking at these numbers too, and you have probably heard in our discussion that i'm from southern california. i have lived through some big ones. that said, to have such severe quakes in such a close proximity of time you've got to wonder about the ability of these buildings to -- the integrity of them to with stand all of this. are you confident that tokyo, japan in general, with all of
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its technology is going to be okay and ride this out safely? >> you can't plan for quake this is big. in japan itself in 1854 there were two earthquakes. >> the magnitude 8.3, 8.4 that were separated by two years, and it wouldn't surprise nebraska in the scientific community if we had another magnitude 8 plus earthquake in the relatively near future, and those buildings are not going to with stand that. there's just no way. >> let's talk about predictions. the accuracy of doing so. where do we stand on that. >> well, we are making progress. we are making progress on forecasting. not predicting. that is to say competing probabilities for where earthquakes occur, and we're also starting to make progress on when they occur. we actually in our group we report our results not only in
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the literature, but on a website called open hazards.com. we are actually going to establish an advance, i think, in earthquake forecasting technology and time. the way we do that is by counting small earthquakes we expect a six for every 1 house. the technique is to couldn't the number of small earthquakes since the last large earthquake, and then you can develop probability laws that tell you what the chance is of a larger earthquake in any given time. >> do you think we'll be able to narrow that down to, what, hours, days, weeks, months? i mean -- >> probably not hours or days, but i think, you know, probably six months -- three to six months is a relatively reasonable expectation for some time in the next few years. i think we'll be able to say -- make statements like -- in fact, we already are making statements like a 10% chance of a magnitude 7 earthquake with 150 miles of
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san diego during the next year. we can actually make statements like that now. >> i have heard lucy jones who is there at cal tech in one of our nation's leading experts on earthquakes and what happens from a scientific standpoint. she said this earthquake is something that we can take great lessons from because there's so much data from which we can draw the information. do you see it that way? do you think this is going to be used as a learning tool as well? >>. >> lucy is correct about that. we have gps data. we have seismic date kra. we have lots of different kind of data on this earthquake. now, the cavat here is that magnitude nine earthquakes don't occur very often, although in the last few years -- now that we've had five of these greater -- bigger than magnitude 8.6 in the last seven years.
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that's amazing. we discussed that in the last hour, and the fact that how unusual that is. >> and what that all means. i guess it's yet to be specifically determined. we know that we want to get to the bottom of it. from uc davis geology professor, john reynolds. thank you, john. >> thank you. >> still ahead, what's being done to get help to the people of japan, and also coming up, tragedy on a tour bus. if your racing thoughts keep you awake...
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investigators in new york are trying to figure out exactly what caused a deadly bus wreck saturday that killed 14 people and injured everyone on board. we get the very latest on this horrific story. good morning. >> good morning, alex. s that bus was less than 20 miles from its destination when that awful accident happened. police say a tractor-trailer may have been involved, but they're also investigating claims that the bus driver may have been to blame.
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in the blink of an eye early saturday morning a weekend leisure trip turned to tragedy. officials say the worldwide tours bus was returning from a casino in connecticut when it swerved, possibly to avoid a tractor-trailer. crashing into the guardrail and skimming 300 feet before flipping on to its side and slamming to a side post. the pole cuts the bus in half, killing more than a dozen and injuring all 32 passengers on board. a scene that horrified onlookers. >> this is horrible. you want to take a look at this. many of them, i believe, would have been crying because they say, oh, my god. >> reporter: law enforcement sources tell nbc news some passengers say the bus driver, identified as ophadele. williams, may have been to blame as he was driving eradically before the crash. claims officials are visiting. >> going forward our forensic teams and our accident
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reconstruction teams will be working with interviewing witnesses and trying to pull together pieces of actually what occurred here. >> reporter: piecing together exactly what happened in an accident that shattered so many lives. according to the federal motor carrier safety administration, drivers from the bus company wordwide tours have previously been cited for at that time eeg driving. that company released a statement saturday afternoon saying they are heartbroken about what happened and will fully cooperate with investigators. alex. >> well, you know, the timing of this, it really stands to reason. i mean, this accident happened, if i'm not mistaken, about 6:00 a.m. they were coming back from connecticut. >> that's correct. these are really short turnaround trips. the accident happened around 5:30. these are essentially 24-hour casino trips where you have people from the new york city area traveling to casinos in connecticut and coming back the very next morning. there are questions about how much sleep the driver got, if any. did that play a role here? is it possible he fell asleep on the road, and these are all things investigators are considering right now. >> thank you. >> thanks, alex. a big blizzard kept tow
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crews and cops very busy on the highways of misdemeanored in this weekend. some near white-out conditions caused dozens of pile-ups and crashes and caused hundreds of drivers to abandon their cars. at the same time official from maine to maryland are keeping a close eye on the rivers in the northeast after massive storm dumped five inches of rain in some areas, and even though the heavy downpours have stopped, the flooding remains a serious concern, doesn't it, as we go up to chris warren from the weather channel who is here with the latest. it is a mess. >> it is, alex, but we can look to the ground, not to the sky for water. we won't see any more rain falling, at least for the next few days in the northeast. take a look here at stormtracker. we do have a few hours working through the region, but it's just those hit and miss type. shouldn't add any significant water to the streams. current temperatures right now relatively pleasant for this time of year. upper 40s in morning. right now in philadelphia it's 51. the daytime highs today expected to be into the 50s most areas. getting close to 60 in washington d.c. looking across the country here, we do have a little impulse moving through.
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it looks like right through the plains right now. might see some snow out of this. otherwise, as we head into the day, the west is where it's going to be windy and very soggy. from san francisco all the way on up into portland and seattle. we do later on this evening tonight into the overnight hours have a chance for some storms from arkansas on over into memphis. for your monday forecast, looking good. right in the harlem area. kansas city area, still on the cool side. colder temperatures for the north. many minneapolis getting above the freezing mark. that's the good news thereby. we'll have a chance for storms after a gorgeous weekend in atlanta. >> chris warren with the weather channel. thank you. coming up in our continuing coverage of the disaster in japan. imagine living near that nuclear power plant on the verge of a meltdown. we'll talk to someone who is living that nightmare right now. , always leakguard protection adjusts to sudden changes in flow. no other ultra absorbs faster. so relax, we got you covered. have a happy period. always.
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scientists around the world, will the crippled reactors undergo a complete meltdown and what that would mean? officials are pumping sea water into at least one of the failing reactors now, and nbc's ann thompson is has more for us. good morning to you. >> good morning, alex. s this morning for the first time japanese officials are talking about possible meltdowns at two reactors at the fukushima one nuclear power plant. they say more radiation is leaking from that plant, and they are trying desperately to prevent disaster. the primary concern today is the reactor in unit three, the cooling system in that unit that was working, and then it suddenly stopped yesterday. to relieve the pressure in the reactor, the utility company opened a valve to release some radioactive vapor. that vapor goes into the containment building surrounding the reactor. that vapor contains hydrogen, and the fear is if there is another build-up of hydrogen, there will be a repeat of what happened yesterday at the reactor of unit one. that explosion blew off the roof and consumed the walls of the
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containment building surrounding unit one. officials say the reactor, which has enveloped in steel, was not damaged, but fear reverb rated throughout japan. the government expanded the evacuation zone and began screening evacuees for radiation evacuation. nine people were treated for radiation exposure. to try and prevent a meltdown in unit one, authorities flooded that reactor with sea water, in effect, writing off any future use of the already 40-year-old reactor. apparently deciding it was better to lose the reactor than risk nuclear disaster if they tried to save it. alex. s. >> all right, ann thompson. thank you. a bit earlier i spoke with a man who lives about 30 miles away from that plant. john loinz is a british citizen that lives in japan, and i asked him how he is coping in light of the nuclear threat. >> apprehensive for sure, but the news has set the evacuation zones at 20 kilometers around the first plant, and ten
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kilometers around a second plant. that is a good distance away from where we are. >> what is your major concern, john? >> as everyone's major fear is that it goes into a nuclear meltdown. as it looks, the radiation level advisory decreased since yesterday. those radiation levels were never that high to begin with, but it's just about what's going to happen from now on. the current situation is okay. if it takes this way, that's fantastic, but what's going to happen from now on. >> exactly. i understand you have young children, and i know as a home that's hard enough to keep them corralled inside. are you able to go out with them? i mean, is it -- is life as normal for them, or not at all? >> we've been keeping them inside as a precaution, and just going out when we absolutely have to. yeah, this area down here is supposed to be okay, far enough away, but -- >> do they understand what's happened? i mean, i'm certain you felt an kwaek, right? >> oh, yeah. the earthquake was huge, and there's been aftershocks going
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on and on, but, yeah, they've experienced earthquakes before, but not with the whole reactor problem. that's a new game, of course. >> are they seeing the news and, you know, i mean, what's the reaction -- how do you explain to young kids what's going on? >> these days all the action and shows that are on tv, they get quite excited to see big waves and cars being thrown around and stuff, but, yeah, they're assumingist just another show. >> john, at what point will you feel safe muff to go outside and resume life as normal? i mean, i know you'll get information from the news and the government, but is there sort of a threshold that you hold and you say at this point i'm going to feel safe? >> just, yeah, when the all clear has been declared and my water is running and stuff again. we're lucky where we're living, but other parts of town near where we work and things have no water. >> i want to thank john for speaking with me a bit earlier today. it is a startling reminder for coastlines across the
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pacific the next tsunami could happen at any time. what's the potential risk to america's western coast? that is the question tackled in the new edition of news week magazine in which it says the tsunami that struck japan was just the latest in a series of events that now puts california at risk. >> i thank you you were able to come back this hour, simon. with regard to the exposure of the west coast, we talk about california specifically, about the i understand it's also oregon and washington state? >> yes. there is the san andreas fault that underpins san francisco and a sibling of it underneath oakland, but to the north of it it's an even more dangerous fault called the cascadia fault that has been written about relatively little. there's a new canadian book coming out in a week's time. it's a very dangerous fault.
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it's all part of this pacific -- well, the borders of the pacific plate. as i was mentioning earlier, we now have seen australia, this massive rupture of the northwest side of the pacific plate. we had the 22nd earthquake in christchurch. an earlier one also in september in new zealand. that's southwest side of the plate. a huge earthquake in chile last year. 8.7, i think in magnitude, and the southeast side, and the one, therefore, untouched thus far, untouched side of this pacific plate is california, oregon, washington, and british columbia where there is, i mentioned, two serious faults. there is at least statistically a potential for something to occur, whether it's big or not, but people should be alive to that possibility. something needs to be build also about tsunamis, where the tsunami effects. the 1964 good friday earthquake
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in anchorage, alaska, created a tsunami that erupted on oregon and california and had a frightening effect in anchorage where it roared p the tour de valdez and destroyed an oil terminal and then flaming oil was borne on the top of the mcing wave. imagine a 30 foot wave hurdling towards you. >> as a fire. >> that is an unbelievably awful suggestion. oregon and washington and i think even northern california, there were lives lost, and this is a very real possibility. the one that i studied and am most interested in was crackatoa also on the western side of the ring of fire. the waves there were 110 feet high.
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they were caused not by an earthquake, but by the eruption of this massive volcano, which the entire island vaporized in a matter of seconds which created such an enormous hole in the sea which was then filled with water, which instantly flashed into steam and that caused these pulses, afternoons this techtonic episode did in japan the other day, and that sent on the a huge wal much water. it killed 40,000 people in the immediate proximity with this 110, 115 foot wall of water, but it prop gated all over the indian ocean. it hit sri lanka, zanzabar and then went across africa and was recorded in west africa and nigeria all the way up to the english channel. >> simon, it is fascinating listening to you. i want to get back to a historical perspective.
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when you look at chileam earthquake a year ago, japan just this week, christchurch within this past month, is there another time in history in which all four corners of the pacific ring of fire have all had significant earthquakes because you make the point. three corners have been dealt with, but not this fourth corner. >> there's an exact parallel in 1906. april the 18th, 1906. the san andreas fault ruptured. a huge rupture. that caused the devastation in san francisco that all americans know about. shortly before that i think maybe three weeks before it might have been a little longer, there was an enormous earthquake which caused many more casualties in valparaiso. there was an island called phormosa, not far from japan. i'm not sure about whether there
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was at that time an earthquake at the southwest corner, which would be in new zealand, but we have this same phenomenon which i have been banging away about for several years now in that if there is a major event on one side of the techtonic plate, it is as if you are hitting the earth. imagine it being a great big brass bell, and you are hitting it with a big claker, and the whole bell starts vibrating, and other things that are unstable, even if they may be thousands of miles from where the bell was hit, will, if they're unstable, fracture. that's the problem i think we're confronting. i don't want to alarm people unduliy, but to say that statistically, it is a possibility now that this fourth corner of the pacific plate may show some seismic activity, so be prepared. that's what not many americans are. they think, oh, well, it will happen in hundreds of years time. well, no. it's now likely -- more likely than not to occur in the very foreseeable future. >> extraordinary discussing all
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this with you. seem ob winchester. thank you for making extra time for us. i appreciate it. >> thank you. japan's prime minister says his country is facing the worst tragedy since world war ii, and we'll take a look at how you can help the people of japan coming up on msnbc sunday. what can you do with plain white rice? when you pour chunky sirloin burger soup over it, you can do dinner. 4 minutes, around 4 bucks. campbell's chunky. it's amazing what soup can do.™
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46 past. at the center of the disaster is sendai, japan, an area appears was hit the hardest of all, and these are the latest pictures you're about to see where homes all across the coast have completely been destroyed, and one area where a nuclear plant was damaged in the quake, more than 200,000 people have been evacuated. joining us now suzy defrancis, the chief of affairs -- what they need to address immediately. >> well, alex, we've received updates from our counterpart,
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the japanese red cross overnight. they have about 80 medical teams now out treating people. they're seeing people who almost drowned who have a lot of sea water in their lungs. this can put them at risk of pneumonia. they're seeing people with burns, smoke inhalation, these kinds of injuries, so i think in dad addition to search and rescue, obviously, treating the wounded, getting them the care they need or getting them to hospitals is one of the biggest priorities. they have about 600 red cross people on the ground doing this. >> that's great. i'm sure people are grateful for their help, but what about the challenges for rescuers and people trying to provide humanitarian assistance? when you are looking at areas that are wiped out, you don't have power to plug in electrical needs. you don't have necessarily clean places to set up. you don't have ways to even communicate with people in the area. >> those are all the challenges of a disaster, and sometimes we actually worry about the relief
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workers themselves and they get tired so they're rotating them in and out. the japanese government has a very well formulated response plan, much as we do here in the u.s. and the red cross there has a defined role, and their role is to go out, distribute blankets, support these evacuation centers. we know there's about 300,000 people displaced. we know that in sendai there's probably 60,000 to 70,000 people in shelters. the red cross there is going in delivering blankets, hygiene kits because, obviously, they haven't been able to take care of their needs, and just will also be providing psychological support as time goes on because these people are in shock. they've lost loved ones possibly, homes, maybe livelihoods, and they're going to need that kind of mental health care. >> yeah. talk about w a psychologist who says it's a kind of trauma that's on so many levels. i mean, it really just -- it's hard for them to be able to, you know, really get their feet on
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firm ground and feel safe about it, which is just the basic of human existence. suzy, last question for people who are watching and they want to help, what can they do? >> well, thank you, alex. we are accepting donations that we will provide to the japan red cross, so you can go to the american red cross website, redcross.org, to make a donation. you can also text "red cross" on your cell phone to 90999 for a $10 donation. >> okay, you see it there. redcross.org, 1800-red cross or text rex to 90999. good talking to you. thank you so much. >> thank you, alex. >> still ahead, predicting earthquakes. is there a technology that can give us a life-saving heads up? '. so we're on the serengeti, and seth finds a really big bone. we're talking huge. they dig it up, put it in the natural history museum
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japan has an early warning system in place to alert citizens to earthquakes, but despite all of the resources it
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pours into the technology it's still only able to send out a warning seconds before a disaster might strike. daniel seaburg is a science and technology expert. we welcome you this morning. thanks for joining us. >> good morning. >> those seconds can be helpful. but when are we able to expect scientists to predict something with greater certainty and a longer lead time? >> right. well, prediction remains the holy grail when it comes to earthquakes. that's still not possible. what is possible is the early warning system. so in japan there are hundreds of ground sensors. they are measuring shock waves from the ep sender of the earthquake. the initial shock waves run quickly but they are weak. the shock waves that follow are much more powerful but moving slower. so the sensors look at time and distance between shock waves and send an alert over telephone, radio, cell phones. it's a few seconds up to a minute depending how far you are from the epicenter, of course.
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>> we heard people in tokyo were getting the minute because it was a bit away from sendai and off the coast. >> we're not sure how well it worked. we have reports that it did function the way it's supposed to. of course, any amount of time you can give people is critical in a situation like this. >> particularly tsunami. get away. >> that's ale whole nother warning system. >> it seems japan is well prepared. they understand they are a smalle island on a large tectonic plate. do we have similar sensors with the greatest time of density like japan does here in the u.s.? >> not yet. the money they spend on earthquake research is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. it is not the same in the united states. there are other challenges like geography. japan is 4% the size of the land mass of the united states. you know, different parts of the united states are in different types of earthquake hot spots. everyone's heard of california, the pacific northwest. >> sure. >> but alaska is a hot spot, hawaii, the southeast, the new
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madrid fault line runs through several states. >> a map will show this. the new madrid fault line is something that's part of the daily vernacular, but who knew? >> it should be. there was a massive earthquake there a couple hundred years ago. there could be again. you see the red there across several states. so millions of people could be vulnerable to something like a potentially big earthquake we are seeing in japan. >> they are talking about memphis, st. louis. >> memphis is in the cross hairs of where this earthquake could happen. forecasting this sort of thing you're looking at probability based on the number of earthquakes. it's difficult research when you think about trying to get into the ground to feel the pulse of the earth. nothing replaces preparedness. that's something we can do. >> it has to be responsible. >> like having a fire drill in your home. think about it in the case of an earthquake.
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there is no difference. >> that means packing up supplies, food. >> having a plan to get out of the house. knowing how to communicate maybe where you will meet. there are a lot of resources online to figure out how to set it up for your family where you live. it is never too early to prepare. it's possible that the big one won't happen in your lifetime. it's possible that it could. there is no reason to wait until the last minute for this. >> really good advice. good to see youful as always. >> you, too. >> we'll continue our coverage of the disaster in japan with the latest on efforts to prevent a nuclear tragedy. thomas roberts will be joining us. i see him. he's up next. you're watching msnbc sunday. flu fluchltz .
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